What are my rights on returning to work after Maternity Leave?

JHolland asks Mum & Career:

Hi all,

Please could someone give me some advice on my rights on returning to work or at least where I can look? This is quite a long one so please bear with me.

I have been on maternity leave from a market research company for 9 months. I am due to go back part time from next week with a view to go back full time from September 1st. This was agreed in a formal meeting and I have a letter from my employer confirming this agreement. I would be required to work 2.5 days a week and will be home based. As a researcher, I conduct focus groups in the evening which was part of the agreement and that I would do this one week and write the findings the following week.

I changed my mind a few weeks later and decided that I would like to go back full time instead and so sent a request, but was told that they would need to stick to the original plan which is fine, but a little hurtful since they have recently taken on a number of new employees but hey ho.

I wrote an email today to ask if there is work ready for me to start next week. I suggested that I would come into the office on my first day as I need to pick up my laptop and some papers. I got a reply at the end of the day where I was told that there wasn’t much work on at the moment but I would probably be able to get involved in something but will have to work in the office.

This is not what was agreed, and if I go in then my travel costs are going to eat into the already depleted salary. I’m not sure where I stand legally. I think I will ask for travel expenses to the office at least but I feel that this is a bit unfair.

Does anyone have any advice on what I should do?

Jx

 


 

Expert Answer by: Inge Woudstra – Working Women’s Expert

J,

That must be a very confusing situation. Going back to work after 9 months is stressful enough as it is. On top of that you are looking at adapting to new workhours, and starting to work from home, which also requires adjustments for you and your employer. I do hope you find a solution soon.

The best place to go to find out about maternity rights is http://www.workingfamilies.co.uk, and you will find it on this page:
http://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/parents-and-carers/rights-during-pregnancy-and-maternity-leave They give a lot of information, as well as personal advice, in case you feel you can’t find the answer on their site.

I would definitely recommend you discuss your situation with HR and/or your manager, in person, and start by stressing you are happy to be coming back and keen to get going (even though you might not feel this right now ;) . Then establish you would like to come to a solution that works for both of you, and ask whether that is what they want too? Explain why the currrent situation is not acceptable to you. Then wait what they come back with.

For this conversation to go well, you certainly do need to know your rights. Any chance you are member of a Union, your company has a union representative, or workers council? As you might find people there that are able to help you.

Any idea why they are making your life difficult? Most likely there really is just not that much work to go around, and they do not see a solution. In that case you might want to think about some solutions, such as indeed them paying your travel costs, but perhaps you know other solutions too. Do let me know how you get on, and whether you have found any other places with good information or help.


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